Southland: Bleed out

John Cooper’s learned in the streets of Los Angeles, a single step can separate life and death.

What a powerful statement the opening line makes. Think about it. A blink. A breath. A turn of the head. A step. All are actions that occur in an infinitely small segment of time. A space on a clock and calendar that will always serve as a reminder that a loved one nearly left this earth, or that a special someone was taken from us at a precise moment. Those seemingly insignificant actions forever mark a life-altering event.

For cops, though, those moments in time are a dime a dozen. They’re part of the job. And with each passing tick of the clock, police officers everywhere walk the very thin line between life or death. Unfortunately, none of them know when they’ll step to either side. It’s a balancing act that many people take for granted…until they slip.

I made the statement last night that while watching this episode I realized how incredibly strong John Cooper really is, because for one solid hour he carried the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. And that was true, but the rest of the solar system was divided between Sammy, Lydia, Ruben, Ben, Hicks, and Dewey.

What an emotional ride. A great bit of acting all around.

– Sammy finally goes before a panel of IA detectives, and they’re not going easy on him. Sammy makes things a little more difficult for himself by mixing a lie (about the camera) with tidbits of the truth. He’s also talking in “cop speak” to police investigators who may see this as rehearsed testimony to prevent being tricked into saying something he didn’t want to say. To further make this scenario difficult is the fact that Ben has to reinforce Sammy’s statements by also telling the same lies. And we all know what happens when two people share the same secret…somebody usually gets burned. And, believe me, this has the potential to become a very hot problem for Sammy and Ben.

– Lydia and Ruben respond to a DOA and see a very troubled Dewey waiting for them at the curb.

The deceased is an infant, and as any cop will tell you, those are calls they’d rather not answer. Ruben’s initial reaction is that the baby died a SIDS death. Lydia’s not buying that, though, and delves deeper into the situation. She feels a personal connection to the case since she, too, is a new mother whose own baby won’t stop crying unless he’s snuggled next to her in bed. Well, we learn, after many twists and turns in the case, that the mother of the infant victim took a sleeping pill and when she finally awakened, discovered that she’d rolled over during her sleep and smothered the child. Lydia’s horrified expression at the mother’s confession was not in response to knowing that the young woman had accidentally killed her own child. Instead, it was in knowing that having her own infant son in bed with her could someday end in a similar tragedy.

It was interesting to see Dewey back at work answering calls after suffering a heart attack two weeks prior. I guess an aspirin a day really does do the trick.

– Coop and Lucero pull up to assist two patrol officers who’d just chased and caught a suspect. A female officer chats with Cooper while her careless partner places the thug in the backseat without searching him. He also leaves the rear door wide open. The crook takes advantage of the situation by pulling a gun and taking a shot at the four officers. Coop takes control, gets the bad guy out of the car, and then finds the weapon. Similar scenarios have played out in real life, ending with both police officers and suspects dead. Officers should ALWAYS thoroughly search suspects before placing them inside the police car. Sure, it’s uncomfortable for all when having to place your hands on parts of someone’s body where the “sun don’t shine,” but a little embarrassment is far better than “bagpipe music and pine boxes”, as Lucero so eloquently related to the careless officer who caused the dangerous mess.

And speaking of embarrassing situations, how about the nude guy who was horse-whipped by a scantily-clad librarian who immediately set her sights on Coop the moment she saw him standing in the doorway. She also experienced a moment of pure heat when Cooper asked her to turn around for cuffing. “My cuffs or yours,” was her response to Coop. Funny thing, many real-life officers hear similar comments during the span of their careers. Must be the uniform…

A man frantically begs for help, leaving Coop and Lucero no choice but to leave their patrol car and follow the distraught man. They soon discover that a bus had struck a pedestrian, trapping her beneath the vehicle. Cooper crawls under and stays beside the severely injured woman, holding her hand until rescue crews arrive to help. They raise the bus and place cribbing under it to hold it up, and then place a backboard beneath the woman before pulling her to safety. They stabilize her neck and head (great scene and procedure, by the way) and Coop wishes her well. He also checks on her condition and is relieved to later learn that she survives.

Now, I can’t begin to pinpoint the thousands of times that officers go through hand-holding moments at trauma scenes. I’ve done it countless times, and so have many, many other officers at some time or another. And, during those seemingly endless moments until help arrives, you form a bond with the victim. And you care. And you hurt for them. And you grieve when they die. And you lose a part of you each time. You know, when I hear people claim that cops are unkind, emotionless, abusers of all people of all races and gender, well, I sometimes wish I could grab them by the collar and force them to see what it’s really like to wear a badge and uniform. But, that’ll never happen. Neither will the day ever come when everyone understands. But you know what…the folks at Southland sure do.

Speaking of emotional roller coasters, Sammy and Ben engage in a high-speed pursuit of a crazy man who stole a taxi and sped off. The wacky driver leads the two officers through city streets while striking other cars, causing multiple accidents, and generally creating a highly dangerous situation for everyone involved. Sammy’s driving while Ben watches the side streets for oncoming traffic. Each time they approached an intersection we heard Ben say, “Clear.” That’s done in real life, and it’s to let the driver know he can safely continue through the crossing.

Suddenly, Sammy decides to terminate the pursuit, and Ben is livid. “We were lead car!” he yelled. Well, that was true, but if Sammy, or any officer, decides that the pursuit isn’t safe, then stopping the chase is the right thing to do. Sure, Sammy’s mind was on other things, but that’s more than enough reason to end the chase. Good move on his part.

– Cooper is a gay cop in a profession that’s overflowing with testosterone and jokes of poor taste. It’s a job where it’s almost taboo to be different/not one of the guys. It’s where a few still believe that being gay equals weakness, unless the officer is a tough-as-rusty-nails lesbian, because being “butch” is a sign of toughness/one of the guys. Screwed up way of thinking? You bet. Right? Nope. But it is what it is.

So, when Lucero offers to hook Coop up with a woman, Coop shrugs it off. But Lucero continues… Coop still plays it off. How long can he continue to hide his personal life from his partner? I’ll tell you…not forever. Because you spend so much time with a partner, and you share so many emotional experiences that, well, it’s almost a necessity to share intimate details about your life. Besides, Cooper has no one else to turn to. His life is crumbling around him. His former TO, Hicks, is falling apart because he feels that his purpose in life is used up. In fact, he came close to pulling the pin last night by shoving the barrel of a revolver against the roof of his mouth. The hammer was back and ready to drop at the slightest touch. Remember, a breath, a blink, and the bagpipes begin to play. It can be that quick.

Adrenaline shoots through roof when Coop and Lucero are faced with a distrught man holding a large knife. He’d cut himself and was considering a final charge at the two officers when a young boy rode up on a bicycle, begging Coop and Lucero not to kill the man. Cooper scoops up the boy and takes him to safety and out of sight of the situation.

– Sammy and Ben finally spot the crazy guy who’d led them on the car chase. This time, though, they’re in foot pursuit. Ben catches the guy, but is injured slightly when he falls down a flight of steps during a scuffle with the “Attica-screamer.” So Sammy follows behind the guy after Ben insists he’s okay and it’s all right to leave him behind. The bad guy jumps a fence and is instantly attacked, mauled, and killed by two large very aggressive dogs. He dies.

Ben insists upon maintaining his womanizing lifestyle when he returns for a second shower scene with the painter-girl/gangbanger’s sister. He’s playing with fire by seeing this girl because he’s now “hanging out” at her house with her scary cousins lounging around the living room. And I do mean “hanging around.”

So, Cooper’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders. He’s nearing the end of his career at a time when his life is empty. He’s lonely and he’s fighting a boatload of demons inside. He lives his personal life in a closet where, apparently, only Dewey has ever had the privilege of peeking inside. Dewey offered Coop some great advice in a way that only Dewey could, by saying, “Hey, John. Go home. Tend to your cactus. Rent a musical. Do what you do. Just have a good time.” He knows John Cooper’s secret, but has never told anyone. Dewey may be lewd and crude, but he’s one helluva stand-up guy.

Lydia lays awake while her baby sleeps soundly beside her. She’s probably thinking about the woman who accidentally smothered her own child during her sleep, so Lydia doesn’t dare close her eyes. Sooner or later her weariness will catch up to her, and she’ll snap if something doesn’t change soon.

Sammy pops the top on a beer and takes a long swallow. He replays the video of the altercation with Tammi, watching it on the camera that he told IA detectives he’d dropped on the ground at the scene.

The show soon fades out, leaving us and the characters in silence, thinking…

Lies. Growing older. Loneliness. Exhaustion. Saving lives. Pain. Suffering. Heartache.

All are causes to “Bleed Out,” emotionally.

And that’s what officers face each and every day of their lives…

 

  1. Repli-Kate
    Repli-Kate says:

    I get the cops-eye-view, my point was that Lydia’s partner repeated many (many, many) times that the likely cause of death was “co-sleeping”. This was reinforced by the last shot of Lydia’s infant sleeping soundly next to her while she lies awake at 4am without having slept a wink. It was an insidious and not-very-subtle reinforcement of very wrong ideas about the safety of a family bed for infants.

  2. Joyce Faulhaber
    Joyce Faulhaber says:

    Lee, I am a relative newcomer to your website. I have really enjoyed reading your reviews and have become a regular to read your reviews after each episode. I appreciate the perspective you bring given your law enforcement background, along with pointing out the police/technical details that are a part of every episode. It really adds another layer to my viewing experience. It is good to know that the people involved in the making of Southland really strive to get the details right as much as possible and from your previous reviews, it sounds like they are spot on. I, too, agree and have noticed how the actors portray their roles with a subtlety that you forget they are acting. They are so incredibly good. They are so often just stunning to watch. It is amazing to me how often the non-verbal moments can make such an impact. As having gone through this before, I’m sure you noticed Officer Cooper’s face when they brought the young woman out from under the bus. His face said it all. Thank you again, Lee, for your reviews and the insight you provide. As I said, it really adds another important and realistic dimension to each episode. I do have one question (which may sound odd) but what can a person, who is not in law enforcement, do to show their appreciation to police officers? What would be meaningful to police officers? I have thought about this for a while now, believe it or not, and watching Southland has only highlighted that question again for me. I’m sorry, my comments were too long. I’ll work at shortening them up if I send another.

  3. TheotherKate
    TheotherKate says:

    Ah….there’s a second Kate. I now slightly changed my name 🙂
    Regarding Coop being gay and people knowing: I assumed that almost everyone knows but nobody really talks about it. Tang at least implied that, when she said that she had heard about him being a safe bet to not hit on a female partner…

  4. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Kate, I think you may have missed the point the show was making about the anti-sleeping message. You see, Southland is filmed from a cop’s eye view, meaning that the characters’ reactions to the pain, suffering, murder, and death they deal with on a regular basis is often somewhat different than the reactions of civilians, mainly because officers routinely see so much “bad.”

    The mother in this episode, as you suggested, was under the influence of a medication, but the child’s death still affected Lydia in a way that most wouldn’t experience because she saw the dead child lying on the bed, and instantly related that scenario to her own situation.

    The same thing happens to many officers when they deal with other tragedies. They see a teen who died in a car crash because they were texting, or after a prom night party, so they instantly enact tighter restrictions on their own kids because of the intense images still playing in their minds.

  5. Kate
    Kate says:

    Cooper’s secret isn’t that much of a secret. Obviously Dewey knows (last week he was joking about Cooper giving him mouth-to-mouth). Ben knows because John *told* him on the drive home from his friend’s funeral. Tang knows because John told the kid on the ledge last season, and then talked to Tang about it at the end of that episode. Similar to the military, people are OK with it as long as John doesn’t actually do anything openly, which of course further inhibits him from forming any long-term, meaningful human connections. Although weirdly, I feel like Dewey would be the most instantly-accepting if John were to actually talk about or (heaven forfend) bring a fella around to some social event. Dewey’s an “anything goes” kind of guy.

    On another note, I’m really annoyed that the show propagated the anti-co-sleeping negativity. Women have been sleeping with their babies for tens of thousands of years without danger. The few instances of babies coming to harm or dying have been when the parent in the bed with them was under the effects of alcohol or drugs, and was not able to wake when the baby exhibited distress. Please let moms find the best way to keep themselves and their babies rested and healthy without the guilt.

  6. Becky
    Becky says:

    Great review, Lee. The actors portray these roles with such subtlety that I sometimes forget their acting – they are that good. Glad to see someone else notices too. And I agree with your comments about Dewey. For those who have watched since the beginning, you can tell how much Dewey respects and admires Coop. He’s not such a bad guy. Yeah, he’s crass and definitely not politically correct, but he provides levity to a show that sometimes needs it.

    And how about the Lucero/Cooper partnership? I really love it. I hope he does come out to Lucero… I think Lucero will accept it better than he thinks.

    I really hope Sammy wins this thing against Tammy. She has always made my skin crawl, and he didn’t deserve the horror she’s put him through. As for Sherman… I think we’ll see him get a rude awakening eventually. Sad to see him become such an arrogant jerk – he started out so well.

    Again, awesome review.

  7. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    There were two dogs. The first was a brown Pit, and the other was a black canine. Not sure of the breed of the second dog.

    Yes, had Ben been wearing shoes I wouldn’t have wanted to be in them. If nothing else they have something to hold over his head.

  8. Yalpe Nismoooh
    Yalpe Nismoooh says:

    I only saw one dog attacking the crazy dude…?

    The two eses were her cousin meaning Sherman is in deep shift and I don’t mean work-wise (har har).

  9. Meg
    Meg says:

    Dewey isn’t the only one to know Cooper is gay. Ben knows because John alluded to it in s1 and I’m pretty sure Ben figured it out. Also, Tang was there when he told that suicidal gay teen that he was gay and not to end his life. I’m pretty positive she heard him and the two other officers that was with them.

  10. Pat Marinelli
    Pat Marinelli says:

    Another great episode and another great review. I too feared for Ben in the apartment. It will be interesting to see what happens with his storyline. I also worry about Cooper…and all of them.

  11. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    I think Dewey is probably just okay with Cooper being gay. No one else, just Cooper, which would mean Coop has to stay single forever. Or just not tell Dewey about it.

    And I agree about the rules. I think maybe some people should just lighten up a bit while others tighten up. You know, find middle ground. If not, we’ll soon live in a world where no one is allowed to speak to anyone else unless it’s an apology for something.

    And by “stand up guy,” I meant that Dewey protects his close friends and their privacy, not that he bashes some people and not others.

  12. dlwater
    dlwater says:

    So, let me get this straight. Dewey has said some colorful things about women, asians and others, but because he appears to be OK with gays, that makes it alright? So the only people who must never be offended are… gays and arabs. It’s a new world, someone should write down the rules.

  13. C. Rowley
    C. Rowley says:

    Thanks, Lee, for clearing up why Cooper’s been behaving as he has. I was really confused by his sad, loner attitude and couldn’t understand what the reason for it was, but after reading your analysis it helped me to understand his fears about having nothing left or any further importance when he retires. Now everything makes sense, especially the new scenes with his old FTO. This is why I love your insight!

  14. Samantha Navarro
    Samantha Navarro says:

    I have wondered for a while if Dewey knew Cooper was gay and I do think that is what he was telling him last night. Dewey is so abrasive but a good guy at heart.
    I gasped several times in last nights episode, but I gasped the loudest when Ben walked into the living room and those guys were sitting there. I thought he was dead! Maybe he’ll quit screwing around and get his act together in his personal life.

  15. RMW
    RMW says:

    Great review of a great episode. I’m so glad you caught and mentioned Dewey’s comments to Cooper in the locker room. He knows Coop as well as anyone can, but he’d never breathe a word that could potentially compromise his friend’s standing with his fellow officers. On a lesser show, Dewey would be little more than occasional comic relief. But on “Southland,” we’re given great bits like this to show how complex the character really is. My compliments, as always, to the writers and this superb cast.

    By the way, Lee, what is your opinion of Sammy’s behavior on the video? Clearly, lying about the camera was a major, indefensible mistake. But were his actions with Tammy something that could really cost him his job if IA did see that video?

  16. 1015 Adam Henry
    1015 Adam Henry says:

    Talk about getting caught with your pants down. I almost wrote off the series, but this episode brings it back. What I enjoy about Southland is the storyline of how police officers navigate the slippery slope of their professional and personal lives. The writers, actors, producers and directors do an excellent job without getting campy although I do enjoy the occassional digs at cliches like Bryant and Sherman taking a break at a donut shop a couple episodes back.

    Besides a character study, Southland is a great comparrison to the genre of police dramas over the years (decades). The closest ones to its accuracy would be the Dragnet, Adam-12 and Emergency! by RA Cindader. The obvious differences would be the cars and equipment. Vintage analog Motorola the size of a brick compared to today’s smartphones or the day’s ‘hot sheet’ taped to the dash as opposed to running makes on a unit’s MDT or from staight handle batons to PR-24 to today’s use of the ASP. The real gem though is two fold. One is the writing style of back in the day post Ozzy and Harriet with officers, firemen (firefighters) and doctors and nurses being straight laced and professional and situations, though exciting and dramatic, have mostly happy outcomes. The rescue scene with the bus is a good example of how far the genre has come in terms of protraying reality. The scene with the victim’s twisted leg under the bus as compared to simillar scenes on Emergency! is a good example. Its a good comparison on rescue techniques (protocols) have changed within the emergency services and how the entertainment industry and the American audience set the standards of what is considered as decent with today’s programing.

    Hopefuly the next episodes will get into more history with Hicks and Cooper. Its obvious that Hicks was active during the Gates era and Cooper was the idealistic boot and that so many years after Hicks retirement, Cooper still has respect for him, though I’m sure he had concious objections of how Hicks may have handled himself on the street. That said, I do agree that all the actors are choice personalities to portray the shield in any era. Michael Cudlitz looks right at home in an LAPD uniform, whether its today or back in the day with a cheesy mustache and aviator shades.

  17. dlwater
    dlwater says:

    This episode showed us so much about Cooper as a person. In this series, Cooper has always come across as abrasive

    to me but in this episode, I saw what it really costs him to do his job everyday. Good work.
    I will have to go back and look at the episode again, but I think the tape might help Sammy in his case. It

    clearly shows her attacking him first. How ever it goes, it is defintely affecting his work. Although, the pitbull

    attack was pretty f–king cool!